Norfolk Daily News: Editor’s job evolves as technology changes
By Michael Menish
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kent Warneke is a northeast Nebraska native from Plainview. He attended school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has worked at the Omaha World-Herald as a copy editor, reporter and editorial writer. He later moved to Norfolk to work for the Norfolk Daily News as managing editor and has been the editor since 1990. With ties to Lincoln and Omaha, and nearly 30 years of journalism background, Warneke knows what the readers in Nebraska want. He talked about the newspaper business in a phone interview.
Q. What does your job entail?
A. Ultimately, I’m responsible for the content we produce, whether it be in print or online. So I oversee a staff of about 20 people and work with them closely. Then in addition to that, writing the editorials and being in charge of the opinion page is also a specific responsibility of mine.
Q. Do you think that as time moves on, the use of blogging and website portfolios will become important for journalist?
A. I think that’s undoubtedly true. I already have a Twitter account and a Facebook account that I post some things related to the Daily News. The Daily News, as a whole, is doing more with Facebook and Twitter. We have community bloggers and some of the columns we write for the print edition, we turn into blogs on our website. So especially for the younger generations those avenues of sharing information I think will become more important.
Q. How has the Internet changed the Norfolk Daily News from an editing standpoint?
A. I would say it has made me a little bit more uneasy about things. For the print edition, a reporter writes a story he edits it himself and sends it to me. I edit it, I send it to the copy desk, they edit it, then it goes to design and is laid on a page and then someone proofreads it. It has about four or five sets of eyes before it’s sent to the printing press. But with the Internet, literally in some cases, it is one set of eyes or two at most and so there is not as much editing going on with the Internet and that makes me uneasy.
Q. So is there more trust in reporters or do they go through training because there is less editing available?
A. Both. Here in Norfolk, we are fortunate that we haven’t had a lot of turnover and so we don’t have a lot of rookie reporters. They’ve been around for at least three, four, five years and so I do trust them. They’ve earned that trust and they know what they’re doing. If they are contemplating posting something to the website that they’re at all unsure of, they will seek out additional people to take a look at it before it goes live.
Q. What are some challenges you face as an editor?
A. I think that biggest challenge we face is that it used to be that the vast majority of a journalist time was spent gathering and reporting and writing information, as you’d think it should be. Now, even though we still do that, we spend an increasing amount of time in disseminating that information. You write the story, you get it ready for the newspaper, but you also have to post it to the website and maybe you send a tweet about it or you post something on Facebook or you send a text blast when you have a breaking story to alert people that something has just broken on your website. Or you send an email blast to let people know what you’re doing or shoot video and edit the video before you post that. There is just so much more time being spent on the various ways that we share information that it’s cutting into the gathering of information.
Q. What is the hardest decision you have ever had to make in regards to editing?
A. There have been several stories where the reporters have done an excellent job of gathering information and pertinent details, quotes, etc. The kind of thing you would want in a well-written story, and if I was still at the Omaha World-Herald, I might have made a different decision. But when you’re an editor in a community the size of Norfolk, a rural community, there are some times when you edit things you don’t include the more graphic details or some of the most inflammatory comments because there is concern that it will offend the sensibility of the majority of your readers. And so even though that information is still news and pertinent there are times that I’ve had to face the decision of do I include it do I take it out what’s best for the credibility of the newspaper as compared to what our readers want and expect of us.
Q. Where do you see the future of journalism going?
A. Well truly I think it’s a two-prong thing. I think anyone, let’s say 45 years or older, they’re probably if they’re an ingrained newspaper reader they’re going to stay a newspaper reader and that could be 40 more years. For younger generations, will they be satisfied with getting all their information online whether it be from a website or from blogs or Facebook or Twitter things like that? Certainly (it’s) a possibility will they gravitate as they get older to a printed product possibly, but I don’t think that we can guarantee that. So I think that for the indefinite future, newspapers still need to view themselves as a information-gathering and sharing company and to do that in a variety of ways and to not focus on just one platform or another.
Q. Do you have any advice for journalism students?
A. Be as versatile as possible in your training. Learn how to write a good story for a newspaper but also learn how to write and edit a good story for a website. Learn how to shoot and edit video. Become comfortable with as many tools as possible.